Voltaire Famous memorial

Original Name François Marie Arouet
Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Death 30 May 1778 (aged 83)
Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Burial Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Plot Entrée
Memorial ID 1519 View Source

Philosopher. He attended the Collège Louis-le-Grand for eight years, which laid the foundations for his prolific career as a writer and dramatist. After graduation, he intended to become a writer, though his father wanted him to be a lawyer. To fool his father, he pretended to work as a lawyer's assistant while he spent most of his time writing poetry. His father eventually found out about the ruse and sent him to the provinces to study law, though while in the provinces he continued writing. He soon became very popular among the aristocracy for his wit. However, one of these witty satirical writings, which concerned Philippe II, the Duke of Orléans (King Louis XV's Regent), got him arrested and sent to the Bastille. While in prison, he adopted the pen name Voltaire and wrote his first play, 'Oedipe'. After being released from the Bastille, he continued to run into trouble with the authorities. He was exiled to England without a trial after insulting the Chevalier de Rohan, an incident that led to his lifelong pursuit of trying to reform the French legal system. While in England, he was impressed by how the monarchy was radically different from that in France, and also felt the influence of the progressive ideas of the time, such as the freedom of religion and speech. Many of the prominent British personalities of the time also heavily influenced him; first and foremost among them was William Shakespeare, whom he felt that French writers should try to emulate. He returned to France after three years of exile and published his ideas and findings in a fictional book entitled 'Philosophical Letters on the English.' Because this book portrayed the English monarchy as more enlightened, progressive, and humane than the French monarchy, copies of the book were burned and he was forced to leave Paris again. Voltaire took up residence at the Château de Cirey, where he began a fifteen-year relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet, Gabrielle Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil. This relationship was to be a time of great mutual intellectual development. They collected over 21,000 books, conducted scientific experiments, and studied books and history. He also continued to write during this time, publishing such works as 'Essay upon the Civil Wars in France', 'Essay on Epic Poetry', 'The Elements of Newton's Philosophy', the play 'Mérope', and the novel 'Zadig' (1747). Another of his writings during this period was an essay on the life of King Charles XII, an essay which marked the beginning of his rejection of religion and earned him the position of historian in the king's court and an appointment to the French Academy. After the Marquise du Châtelet died in 1749, Voltaire fell out of favor at the court. He relocated to Berlin, where his benefactor was Frederick the Great. He was given a salary of 20,000 francs a year, and initially fared very well at Frederick the Great's palace. However, his benefactor became very angry at him when he published 'The Diatribe of Doctor Akakia', which was aimed at the president of the Berlin Academy of Science, with whom he was arguing and facing a lawsuit. Frederick had all copies of the book burned and had Voltaire arrested while on his way back to France. He found himself barred from entering Paris by King Louis XV, and ended up in Geneva. Initially he was received with open arms, but ran into more trouble with a law that banned theatrical performances and found that his earlier writing 'La Pucelle d'Orléans' had been published in Geneva against his will. He was also disgusted with what he saw as the provincial and intolerant attitudes of the people there. These events led to the writing of his best-known work, 'Candide' (1759), and his leaving the city. He continued to write prolifically after leaving Geneva, and was one of the first European personalities to become a legend in his own lifetime. He finally returned to Paris in 1778 and was readmitted to the French Academy, but he died not long after his return, exhausted by all he'd been through. His legacy lived on, however, in his profound influence upon the thinkers of the French Enlightenment and the people who started the French Revolution, as well as being a profound influence upon French culture in general.

Bio by: Carrie-Anne


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1519
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Voltaire (21 Nov 1694–30 May 1778), Find a Grave Memorial ID 1519, citing Panthéon, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Find a Grave .